Sam Durant Wins deCordova Sculpture Park’s $25,000 Rappaport Prize

Installation view of Sam Durant’s End White Supremacy (2008), at Blum & Poe’s 2016 Art Basel Miami Beach booth.


The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, has given its annual Rappaport Prize to Sam Durant, the Los Angeles–based artist whose political work has struck a chord with audiences at galleries, museums, and art fairs—and, most recently, was the subject of intense protest in Minneapolis. As part of the prize, which recognizes an artist who bears a relationship to New England, Durant—who was raised in the South Shore area near Boston—will receive $25,000.

Durant’s activist-minded projects have often addressed racial and economic inequalities with a directness that is rare among contemporary artists. His work has drawn on everything from the civil rights movement to the history of modernism, and has on several occasions addressed white supremacy.

Earlier this year in Minneapolis, his sculpture Scaffold, which includes interpretations of seven gallows that were used by the U.S. for executions between 1859 and 2006, including one used to hang Dakota tribe members in 1862, drew ire when it was erected by the Walker Art Center to be among the high-profile works to open a newly renovated outdoor sculpture garden. After meetings with museum officials and Native Americans in the area—and acknowledgment of shortcomings and an apology from the artist himself—the work was designated to be removed and taken into the Dakota tribe’s possession.

Citing Durant’s work in different media, the announcement of the Rappaport Prize called attention to ways that the artist connects the past and the present, bringing together various strands of history in the process.

In a statement, John Ravenal, the deCordova Museum’s executive director, said, “[Durant] has an impressive record of international and solo exhibitions and a substantial history of scholarly and critical attention. His thoughtful and timely exploration of social justice and civil rights aligns perfectly with the Rappaport Foundation’s commitment to a better society through supporting leadership in public policy, medicine, and the arts.”

July 28, 3:20 p.m.: This post has been updated with clarifying details about Scaffold.

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